Personal conflicts often happen when a person’s thoughts, viewpoints, and values don’t match someone else’s.
While conflict may involve trivial matters rather than serious discussions, even those can grow into bigger problems if not resolved. This is especially true when it comes to people you see every day, like family members and friends.
Depending on the motivator of conflict, trying to resolve it may seem unnecessary. After all, the involved party’s idiosyncrasies are also factors in the situation. These could be temperament, personality, generation gaps, and even past feuds.
Some people would think that “just leaving it alone” is the right thing to do. However, it’s wrong to believe that those matters will go away on their own.
Perhaps, a loved one has taken something of yours without permission, which could eventually lead to a frivolous argument. Without establishing boundaries and having a conversation right then and there, the same argument could resurface in a future discussion as a way of attacking the other person.
No matter how simple, all personal conflict should be resolved as soon as possible. The following tips will help you properly address them before they get serious.
Change Your Perspective
It can be difficult to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Indeed, we care a lot more about how we feel and how a situation looks to us. But, are you sure the situation would look the same to everyone?
Your circumstances depend a lot on what you’re currently dealing with. If you’re stressed out because you just got fired, you’ll deal with conflict differently than someone who just got a promotion, for instance. Very often, it’s not about how conflict affects us – it’s about how much we get affected by it.
A smart way of dealing with this is to take a different perspective.
“Ask yourself how an unbiased outsider would see the situation,” former life coach Fay Agathangelou writes for HealthyPlace. “Are you misinterpreting the reality and is it really as bad, or as negative, as you perceive it to be?”
When doing this exercise, emotions will get in the way. In the beginning, attempting to switch your perspective may sound outright crazy. You’re the one who’s being “attacked,” after all. Right?
Once you get skilled in changing your perspective, you may figure out that this wasn’t the case at all. As an example, you may have judged constructive criticism as a personal attack.
Speaking of which…
Don’t Treat Everything As a Personal Attack
When even helpful criticism sounds like a personal attack to you, that means your confidence needs readjusting. Taking things personally is a telltale sign of low self-esteem.
When you’re insecure about yourself, that makes you sensitive to the words of others – even if they don’t mean any harm. In this case, it’s usually you who’s interpreting things in a negative light. Most certainly, this will result in personal conflict.
Here’s one way to prevent yourself from thinking that way: if you have a low self-esteem, it’s fair to say that you have a distorted vision about yourself and reality. If you had a high self-esteem, other people’s contrasting opinions wouldn’t hurt you as much, as you’d be able to filter them.
When it comes to improving your self-esteem, a counsellor can help you pinpoint the root cause and work with you on improving yourself.
Granted, some things will be personal attacks. And that’s fine – when people are rude to you, that says a lot more about who they are. It’s possible that they’re having a bad day (or a bad life), so you don’t have to take what they say to heart.
If someone criticises something you do, ask yourself if there’s any truth to what they told you. Is there something good you can take out of their criticism? If not, let it go. If the answer is yes, use their perspective to improve. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong sometimes.
Control Your Emotions
The worst thing you can do is allow harmful emotions to take over during conflict.
Arguments don’t need to be heated. However, when clashing personalities are involved, pointing fingers is a lot more satisfactory. Suddenly, the argument becomes about hurting the other person rather than trying to solve the issue.
Let your emotions get out of hand, and you may end up saying things you don’t mean. Such impulsive emotional reactions could take a toll on your mental health, resulting in shame and guilt.
For this reason, it’s important to take a step back during arguments. Instead of lashing out, you may need a “time-out” in order to reflect and ask yourself:
“If I say this, will it be helpful or harmful?”
“Will I be feeling the same way in a few hours?”
“Are we just trying to attack each other at this point?”
Sometimes, even when you’re trying to be calm and level-headed, the other person won’t be doing the same. In this case, walking away is your best option. When emotions take over, rational conversations go down the drain – so it’s best to return to the conversation when the other person is calm.
Consider Underlying Issues
Here’s a mindset shift: people don’t care about you as much as you think. When you’re in conflict with someone else, it’s easy to think that you’re on that person’s mind 24/7, and vice-versa. Yet, in reality, they have more important things to worry about. And that includes their own lives.
According to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, “in most cases, family, finances, health, reputation or security are primary issues. Consider what might be behind the other person’s behaviour.”
With that in mind, try to remind yourself that such issues are what’s causing them to act that way. It’s not about you.
Learn to Let It Go When It’s Time
Resolving conflict isn’t always simple. After all, conflict can only be solved when everyone’s needs are met. Until then the conflict may be dormant, but it won’t be settled. Unless, of course, one of the parties is humble enough to gently let go.
The following quote from Your DOST just might open your eyes to how powerful forgiveness can be:
“It’s human to make mistakes. Learn to forgive rather than holding grudges against each other. Reacting to our anger, our mind stops functioning and we give up to our temper.” As a reminder, your temper may not be what you feel in your heart.